As next year’s education-focused legislative session approaches, the state will have to address a lack of adequate data about how well higher education teaching programs are working, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday.
After a roundtable discussion on education at Central Connecticut State University, the governor said better teacher preparation will be necessary to improve the quality of Connecticut’s schools and close the wide academic achievement gap between children from low and higher income families.
But making those improvements is difficult to do without objective data, he said.
“We’ve been slow about establishing objective standards by which we measure ourselves and you can’t establish them without sufficient data,” Malloy said.
During the discussion, Malloy and Department of Education Commissioner Stefon Pryor heard from and questioned members of the university’s staff about how to improve the quality of teacher education.
The governor seemed particularly interested in how the university gauges the effectiveness of its programs.
Nancy Hoffman, CCSU professor of teacher education, said there was a dearth of data on how well students teach after they graduate and get jobs. Not all students will end up teaching in subject areas where standardized testing is applied, she said.
“Right now there is no feedback loop that would let us look at how our students’ students, how our graduates’ students gain in their classrooms. We have no classroom level data,” she said.
The university does not receive any student performance reports, she said. Even if they did receive the type of performance reports sometimes generated by schools, they would have no way of knowing where the students were at academically before entering the graduate’s class and could not asses their gain, she said.
Schools also do not provide observation reports to the university, which does not have the staff to observe graduates on its own, Hoffman said. But that type information would be useful to administrators, she said.
“If you have additional data sources you want to share, we’d be happy to have them,” she told Pryor.
Education Professor Timothy Reagan said there are some ways of gauging the success of a program like employment information.
“If there are districts where they’ll be hiring, for example, 10 teachers a year and they hire seven or eight Central students, that would seem to be evidence that they think highly of our programs,” he said.
But Malloy said the lack of hard data is a problem for all the state’s higher education entities, not just Central.
The University of Connecticut and the four regional universities produce the vast majority of educators in the state so its important to objectively determine the quality of those teachers, he said.
Data collectors could look into what percentage of students who graduate with an education degree obtain tenure at a school within five years, he said. They could also asses how many remain in the profession for two or six years, he said.
He suggested it might be a good idea to have that type of assessment done by a third party.
“Maybe going to an independent analysis by a third party of the quality of our product is appropriate. The level of self-editing that occurs when you leave that open to personal selection, ‘I’m going to decide when I’m going to participate,’ right there you probably lose a good percentage of the people who are going to complain about you,” he told reporters.
Malloy asked the panel if they had an idea of how much it might cost to hire an outside agency to interview schools about the effectiveness of students who graduate from the university’s teaching program. Anne Pautz, assistant dean of education, said the school considered the idea but determined it didn’t have the resources.
Malloy said he thought it might be feasible to conduct the third party assessments on a statewide basis.
“It’s not as if we have so many universities publicly run in our state that we couldn’t do this on an ongoing basis and take a program at a time,” he said.